End of May Update

Continuing the theme from April, it's been a rather unsual May. Once again we've been low on waders and the hoped-for usual top drawer spring waders never materialised in the first half of the month. Still we've had some decent non-wading birds to make up for it.

Top of the list was a wonderful Spoonbill that was found by Thomas Miller on the 22nd. There was a period from 2009 to 2011 when it was an annual sighting but since then we've only had one more in 2016. Records are generally towards the end of the first half of the year and this one was very much in character. Still a scarce county bird, it's an excellent bird and candidate for Port Meadow Bird of the Year. The bird was ringed and was therefore identifiable as a bird from Denmark that overwintered down at the Hayle estuary in Cornwall. It had been present the previous day in Cornwall still so clearly had travelled a fair distance just in one day.


The Spoonbill, courtesy of Thomas Miller

We also had another Glossy Ibis drop in. This was a different bird from the last one and didn't linger too long.

A different Glossy Ibis courtesy of Thomas Miller

Whilst we are talking larger wading birds, we've had a couple of Great White Egrets and Cattle Egrets seen periodically throughout the month.

Onto waders, and as I said in the introduction, it's been slim pickings. The star wader was a Little Ringed Plover which was found towards the end of the month. Amazingly, this was the first of the year. A sad state of affairs given that we used to get dozens of them and they would usually be one of the earliest waders on the list. The general consensus is that the shoreline has been over vegetated and not so attractive to a species that generally prefers a rather flat shoreline to work its way over. The other main wader has been Ringed Plover which has started coming through in increasing number with up to 12 seen at one time. Apart from that it's just been the occasional Oystercatcher, presumably one popping over from one of the neighbouring gravel pits where they probably breed.

A record shot of the first Little Ringed Plover of the year courtesy of Thomas Miller

As far as wildfowl are concerned, whilst its not really a time of year of peak interest, the continuing floods have meant there have been plenty of birds around. There have been up to 50 of the feral Snow Goose flock persent for most of the month. Evidentally the nice damp conditions have been enough to tempt the birds away from their usual Farmoor habitat. Similarly there have been up to 30 Barnacle Geese lingering for much of the month. These are usually here only in the winter but some have clearly decided to stay. Shelduck have lingered for most of the month with a peak count of 11 and a few pairs usually around. Egyptian Geese have been seen regularly as well with up to 8 birds. I hope they manage to breed again this year. The spring non-breeder Mute Swan gathering is still on-going though numbers are now down from their peak count somewhere in the 80's. Recently they've been accompanied by a feral Black Swan. Up to four Tufted Duck dropped in a few evenings in a row earlier in the month. The drake Garganey was seen a few more times at the start of the month before departing.

Rounding things off we had a male Cuckoo calling regularly around Burgess Field and the Trap Grounds for about a week at the start of the month. A pair of Ring-necked Parakeets were seen on a couple of occasions at the start of the month. Onto raptors and a Hobby was seen on a couple of occasions and a Peregrine has been hanging around the general area as well. Finally, there has been an unseasonal 2cy Caspian Gull seen a few times.

Looking ahead, we are now into June, traditionally a very quiet time for birds. At least we still have some flood waters but from past experience it is usually only Ringed Plover and Dunlin that we are likely to see this month. Still, you never know what might drop in and it only takes one really good bird. Finger's crossed!

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